What is the NPPF?
The NPPF sets out national planning policies for England. These apply with immediate effect.
The NPPF reduces and distils over 1,000 pages of policy across more than 40 documents into just 59 pages. The intention is that this will lead to a simpler, more accessible planning system while aiming to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of up-to-date plans.
It supersedes and replaces almost all previous national planning policy statements (PPS) and planning policy guidance notes (PPG). One notable exception is PPS 10 on waste which remains in force until the National Waste Management Plan for England is published. The Government has also signalled its intention to revoke Regional Strategies. This will happen as soon as the environmental assessment of that decision has been completed.
The NPPF does not address nationally significant infrastructure projects, which will be set out in national policy statements for major infrastructure.
What is ‘Sustainable Development’?
The NPPF introduces a presumption in favour of sustainable development. This is the golden-thread now running through the new guidance. If it can be demonstrated that proposed development is sustainable and fits with local policy then it should have a good chance of being approved.
The NPPF goes back to the high level 1987 Bruntland Report definition of sustainable development which talks about meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations. It also refers to the five guiding principles established in the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy, being (1) living with the planet’s environmental limits; (2) ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; (3) achieving a sustainable economy; (4) promoting good governance; and (5) using sound science responsibly.
Sustainable development will be achieved through implementation of policies set out in paragraphs 18 through 219 of the NPPF. Underpinning this is the need to improve the quality of life, the natural, built and historic environment.
What are the Key Messages?
Housing and Development
n Local planning authorities should plan to meet the full, objectively assessed housing needs for the area.
n Local Planning authorities should continue to identify a five year supply of deliverable land for housing. An additional buffer of 5% should also be identified, although this is increased to 20% where there is a history of under performance in terms of housing development.
n Local authorities can include an element of windfall development in their five-year supply if there is compelling evidence that such sites have consistently come forward and will continue to.
n New settlements or extensions to villages and towns that follow the principles of Garden Cities might help deliver the supply of new homes.
n Planning policies should encourage the re use of previously developed, brownfield land. Locally appropriate targets for the use of brownfield land can be set by the local authority.
n Protection of the green belt remains, though the quality of green belt land should be enhanced. Green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances or through review of the Local Plan.
n Local and Neighbourhood Plans should develop robust and comprehensive design policies. Local design review panels should be set up. Applications of a poor design should be refused.
n Significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth through the planning system.
n The sequential test for planning applications for town centre uses in out of centre locations should be applied.
n Planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment uses where there is no prospect of a site being used for that purpose.
n LPAs should aim to minimise pollution and other adverse effects on the local and natural environment. Plans should allocate land with the least environmental or amenity value.
n A new Local Plan designation for Local Green Space will enable communities to rule out development other than in very special circumstances.
n The presumption in favour of sustainable development (paragraph 14 of the NPPF) does not apply where development requiring appropriate assessment under the Birds or Habitats Directives is being considered, planed or determined.
n Smarter use of technologies should be investigated in order to reduce the need to travel
Flood Risk, Climate Change and Energy
n Local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, flood risk, coastal change and water supply. The sequential and exception tests for development in areas at risk of flooding remains. Further guidance on this is provided in the accompanying Technical Guidance document along with some mineral policies transferred from MPG
n Renewable and low carbon energy generation is seen as central to future sustainable development. LPAs are required to identify areas as suitable for renewable and low-carbon energy development, and make clear what criteria have determined their selection, including for what size of development the areas are considered suitable.
What are the implications for Local Plans?
The NPPF reinforces the principles of the plan-led system.
Planning decisions should be taken in accordance with the Local Plan, unless material considerations suggest otherwise. Where a Local Plan is absent, silent or out-of-date, planning permission should be granted unless it does not comply with the policies contained within the NPPF.
The NPPF encourages the production of a single Local Plan; and Supplementary Planning Documents where justified. These should not place additional financial burdens on developers. Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a development proposal will be reacted to by decision makers should be included in the Plan.
Local Planning Authorities have twelve months from publication of the NPPF to bring existing plans into conformity with the NPPF. In the meantime, full weight will be given to adopted Plans, on the basis that there is only a limited degree of conflict with NPPF
LPAs should collaborate with neighbouring authorities on cross boundary issues, particularly in terms of housing and infrastructure matters.
What should be in the Local Plan?
Local Plans should reflect the vision and objectives of the local community.
They should set out policies that guide how the presumption in favour of sustainable development should be applied at the district level and they should encourage local people to bring neighbourhood plans forward.
Local organisations, communities and businesses thus need to be proactively engaged in the production of the Local Plan.
Local Plans will continue to be subject to independent examination. They will be assessed against the duty to cooperate on cross boundary issues, legal and procedural requirements. A Plan will be found sound if can be demonstrated that it has been positively prepared, is justified, effective and consistent with the NPPF.
The Local Plan should identify broad locations for strategic development, allocate sites to promote development and the flexible use of land, identify any areas where development would be inappropriate and contain strategies for enhancing the environment. They should contain a proposals map.